Telecom Networks Interconnection in Somaliland is a big deal! Authored By:eng. Ahmed Nur Amin.

Telecom Networks Interconnection in Somaliland is a big deal

 As of April 2022, the leading Telecom Network Operators in Somaliland agreed to a common framework for interconnecting their separate networks. The outcome is that subscribers of different networks can make phone calls to each other for the first time. This is a big deal for the customers, and it is hard to underestimate the importance of this milestone. Elsewhere, people take this service for granted, but it has taken more than two decades to materialize for this region. Hopefully, they will follow this exemplary achievement in Somaliland in other parts of Somalia.

There is no doubt that this is part of the more significant initiative of co-ownership and telecom infrastructure sharing led by the Somaliland government in recent months.

Again, whilst this achievement is a big deal for the public, the mystery is why no one is talking about it, including the Government and the smaller Telecom companies, who should have been celebrating for this with their customers at the first place.


What is Interconnection?

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defines interconnection as ‘the legal rules and technical and operational arrangements between network operators that enable customers connected to one network to communicate with customers of other networks’.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) defines interconnection as ‘linking with suppliers providing public telecommunications transport networks or services to allow the user of one supplier to communicate with the users of another supplier and to have access to services provided by another supplier, where specific commitments are undertaken’.

So technically speaking, interconnection is a crucial regulatory pillar for the interconnecting parties (in this case, Telesom & Somtel), which details the duties and the obligations to be fulfilled and undertaken by these parties. These duties include call termination services or transit services on different networks. Other more elaborated services will include unbundled facilities (local loop) and services.


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  Figure 1 – Comparison of Interconnection and lack of it


The Catalyst for Healthy Competition

Interconnectivity is vital that it is central to developing an influential telecommunications industry. It is fundamental to the success of a competition policy. For any government, to enhance the competitiveness of the telecoms marketplace, interconnectivity is the single most crucial issue to deal with; usually, such initiatives are usually driven by the country’s regulatory body and put the necessary frameworks and policies to create more innovative competitive services.

In the case of Somaliland, the Communications Act 2010, which is now somewhat outdated, will have to be repealed, reviewed, and incorporated with critical features of such regulations.

Experience has shown that interconnection can be the stumbling block to effective competition in this industry. Naturally, incumbent network operators, especially those with ‘significant market power, will see the interconnection a threat to their market share. So, to protect their interests, they will engage in strategies to hinder interconnectivity initiatives either by delaying implementations or applying excessive charges in their tariffs. The latter is usually a severe impediment to new entrants coming into the market.

Theoretically, if a new network operator intends to enter the market and the ‘termination rates’ set by the dominant network operators are high, it will be impossible for a new entrant to penetrate and compete on a level plain field. The reason is that there are significant differences in market power between well-established operators and those new to the market. That is why intervention by the government regulatory body is needed to apply policies that make the industry more competitive and ultimately beneficial for the public.

Transparency in Cross-network Tariffs

Many people are wondering why the relevant cross-network tariffs have not been published on with all these efforts from government and telecom companies alike. Usually, governments take the leading role in disseminating the necessary information, including the implementation roadmap and the services available along with the tariffs. As I understand, this has not yet happened.

After a brief inspection of the interconnection of the networks currently in service, there seems to be only ‘mobile to mobile’ calls available. All other services, such as cross-network mobile to landline and SMS messaging, are yet to be interconnected and provisioned.

Also, during this impromptu exercise, we have observed that the following charging schemes are applied based on Prepaid lines only.

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Figure 2 – brief stats from network services available and charges involved

Final Remarks

The recent implementation of the network interconnection is a big deal for Somaliland, and everybody was pleased with the news. While this is a ‘work in progress in my view and other services are still pending, it paves the way for a new era of interconnected services. Who knows, maybe we might witness the interconnectivity services between mobile money service providers one day. Just imagine the immense convenience offered to the public by being able to send eDahab money across to the Zaad platform and vice versa; this will be a game-changer, no doubt.

Nevertheless, to achieve this, the Government will need to develop a clear roadmap that delivers the full implementation of the interconnection services in the Telecom industry. If this is done correctly, this will make the sector more competitive and innovative for the years to come.

Authored By:eng. Ahmed Nur Amin

MD, Small Globe Solutions (SGS)

Hargeisa, Somaliland